R v Laplante, 2011 SKCA 43

Laplante operated a ‘cat rescue program.’ The residence was searched by animal protection officers, RCMP officers and a veterinarian pursuant to a search warrant. The animals were found to be living in distress due to the unsanitary conditions and without adequate water. The SPCA seized a forty-four cats, seven turtles, one iguana, and one dog. The also seized the corpse of a dead cat.

Laplante brought an application to return the seized animals and claimed that the search warrant was obtained in breach of the Charter. The Chambers judge dismissed the application.

On this appeal, Cameron, Richards, and Smith JJ.A. allowed the appeal in part. The granted the return of the iguana and dog, finding no reason to believe they would be at risk of harm if returned. However, the forty-four cats and seven turtles were rightfully seized and no ordered to be returned.

R v Miller, 2020 ABPC 92

This was a sentencing hearing following early guilty pleas to charges of animal cruelty and breach of recognizance, pursuant to ss. 445(1)(a) and 145(3) of the Criminal Code of Canada.

The Accused’s girlfriend could not keep her kitten (“Prince”) at her group home, therefore the accused became the primary caretaker of Prince. After a series of heated arguments, the accused hit Prince on the head multiple times and threw him to the floor. This was filmed by the Accused and sent to his girlfriend. Prince sustained extensive injuries and the accused’s girlfriend convinced him to bring Prince to a nearby 24-hour vet clinic. There the Accused lied and stated he found Prince in an alley, already badly injured. The Accused also lied to police that he had taken Prince to a veterinarian after hitting him off a side table.

For sentencing, the Court considered aggravating factors such as the grave nature of the offence, his motive, his premeditated and deliberate actions, Prince being particularly vulnerable, lying at the veterinarian clinic, having a moderate risk of future violent misconduct, and not being a first offender. The Court also considered the accused’s mental health, including his anger management problems, and it’s possible effect on sentencing in reference to R v Manyshots 2018 ABPC 17, at paras 57-61. However, the Court did not find any evidence to support reducing moral blameworthiness of the accused or the weight to be given to general deterrence as a sentencing principle because of the accused’s mental disorders. The Court held that the extensive news media coverage in this case mitigated the need for a specific deterrence. But for the accused’s early guilty pleas, his youth, unfortunate personal circumstances, lack or any related adult criminal record, his continued community support, and this being his first custodial sentence, the Court would have imposed 18 months imprisonment, as the Crown Counsel requested.

The Court ultimately held that the appropriate sentence would be a period of twelve months imprisonment followed by two years’ probation. Pursuant to section 447.1 of the Criminal Code, the accused was also given a lifetime animal prohibition order. For the breach of recognizance offence, the Court found that a fit sentence would be one-month imprisonment held concurrently.

R v McKinlay, 2020 BCSC 1381

Ms. McKinlay (“the Accused”) was convicted of wilfully causing unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to a large number of her farm animals and wilfully failing to provide suitable and adequate food, water, shelter and care for them contrary to ss. 445.1(1)(a) and 446(1)(b) of the Criminal Code. She was sentenced to 4 month’s imprisonment under a conditional sentence order and a prohibition order that prohibit her from owning, having custody or control of, or residing in the same premises as an animal or bird for ten years. The trial judge made an exception for her five cats and two dogs. The accused appealed.

The accused appealed on the basis of having “fresh evidence” and on the basis that her defence counsel was ineffective. The accused provided photographs of healthy animals (sheep and pigs) not owned by her, and pictures of her own animals for comparison. The accused submit that her property had been flooded and she was in the process of moving her animals and building new pens when the SPCA investigated. She claimed that aside from 2 underweight sows and one piglet with a broken leg, her animals were healthy. The BCSC did not accept this evidence as Crown and defence witnesses were extensively examined and cross-examined, and numerous photographs had been analyzed.

The BCSC concluded the trial judge had properly instructed the jury and sufficiently analyzed all evidence when sentencing the accused. The BCSC dismissed the appeal and upheld the trial judge’s sentence.

Note: Accused have been previously convicted of assault with a weapon (wooden spoon) against her special needs child.

R v Gouin, 2020 ONCJ 114

Mr. Gouin (“the Accused”) agreed to care for Ms. Johnson-Lumapas’ small dog after she learned she could not keep it in her new apartment. The dog had a history of being wary of men after being abused, and showed signs of stress acclimating to her new environment.

When Ms. Johnson-Lumapas returned to the accused’s apartment after going out, she saw her dog lying in the corner with blood coming out of its eyes. The dog was “barely breathing” and her tongue was hanging out of her mouth. The accused claimed his cats had scratched the dog’s eyes and attempted to dissuade Ms. Johnson-Lumapas from seeking medical attention for the dog.

Medical examination by veterinarians showed the dog’s injuries were consistent with multiple, repeated blunt force trauma that “would not have been possible from a cat”. Due to the extent of the dog’s injuries and suffering, the dog was euthanized. Ms. Johnson-Lumapas repeatedly asked the accused what happened to her dog, but the accused denied having anything to do with the dog’s injuries.

Based on a lengthy analysis of the evidence presented in the case concerning the accused’s growing frustration with the dog’s behaviour and his failure to seek medical attention for her, the Ontario Court of Justice found the accused guilty of injuring an animal contrary to s. 445 of the Criminal Code and wilfully causing, or permitted to be caused, unnecessary suffering to an animal, contrary to s. 445.1 of the Criminal Code. Awaiting Sentencing.

R v Reykdal, 2020 NBCA 13

The Appellant (Reykdal) killed his girlfriend’s cat after it bit him. Reykdal was charged under s. 445 of the Criminal Code (“Code”) with killing an animal without lawful excuse. He was convicted in Provincial Court and sentenced to four months incarceration. Reykdal appealed to the Summary Conviction Appeal Court, where the trial judge’s sentence was set aside, and the appellant received a conditional discharge and restitution order of a $500 donation to the SPCA. The issue in question at the New Brunswick Court of Appeal (“NBCA”) was whether the Summary Conviction Appeal Court erred in setting aside the trial judge’s sentence.

The permissible scope of appellate intervention on sentence appeals is narrow. A court cannot change a sentence unless the sentence was imposed by a mistake of law, an error in principle, or if the sentence is clearly unreasonable. The NBCA found the trial judge sufficiently invoked the principles of sentencing outlined in s. 718 of the Code, including that incarceration should be used as a last resort, and found the trial judge had sufficiently considered all factors of the case. The trial judge recognized that Reykdal suffered mental health problems and substance abuse, felt remorse for his actions, and had no prior criminal record. The trial judge also recognized the cat’s death was excruciatingly painful and cruel.

The trial judge was not required to review decisions of similar cases from other jurisdictions. In New Brunswick, there is virtually no appellate level jurisprudence regarding the appropriate period of incarceration in animal cruelty cases. The NBCA noted that patterns in Ontario jurisprudence showed those with prior criminal records, especially pertaining to animal abuse, will likely serve longer sentences. Based on stricter prior sentences in Ontario, some ranging from twelve months to two years, the NBCA decided that four months incarceration is neither unfit nor unreasonable in the circumstances of this case. The NBCA reinstated the trial judge’s sentence of four months incarceration and corrected the trial judge’s prohibition order to reflect the proper section number under the Code (s. 447.1(1)), which prohibits Reykdal from possessing any domestic animal for five years.

R v Chilliwack Cattle Sales Ltd., 2013 BCSC 1059

The defendants had contracted with Roberge Transport to transport culled dairy cows from BC to Alberta. The transport vehicle was stopped by the CFIA and three cows were euthanized due to their conditions.

The defendants were charged under s. 65(1)(b) Health of Animals Act for with unlawfully causing cows to be loaded and transported which could not be transported without undue suffering during their expected journey in violation of s. 138(2) of the Health of Animals Regulations (section now repealed). The Crown must establish a causal link between the transportation, the undue suffering and the animals’ infirmity.

The trial judge found that, before they were loaded, the cows had been inspected and no signs of any conditions that would have caused them to experience undue suffering during the expected journey of about 13 hours were observed. He also found that the cause of the cows’ deterioration between the loading and unloading was not known.

The defendants were found not guilty because the actus reus was not proven. Further, the defendants had exercised due diligence in their loading practices and in hiring Roberge to transport the cattle for the expected journey.

The judge noted that the Crown could have charged the driver for his role as transporter, based on the departures he knew would occur from the journey expected and undue suffering this could cause.

R v Viitre, 2020 BCSC 1463

The Accused appeals a conviction from the Provincial Court. He was found guilty of throwing his German shepherd puppy across a room, causing it to be in distress. The Accused appealed on the grounds that the Judge could not conclude on a reasonable doubt standard that throwing the puppy across the room caused it to be in continued distress – there was no expert evidence to rely on. The Accused also argued that the Judge’s reasoning was internally inconsistent (the Accused was acquitted of the same offence against another dog) and that he erred with respect to intention.

The Court found that the trial judge was entitled to draw a common sense inference about the dog being in distress based on the evidence provided and accepted (para 27-28). The Court also found that the Trial Judge was consistent in his reasoning – the nature of the offences against the two dogs were different – the first was hit on the snout and the second was thrown (para 32). The Court also rejected the Accused’s argument that the Trial Judge should have taken greater consideration of the fact that the Accused did not intend the harm the dog / there was no malice. The Court held reiterated that where a strict liability offence is concerned, the state of mind of the Accused is only relevant for a due diligence defence, which the Court found was not made out on the facts (para 41).

The Court dismissed the appeal.

R v Lacroix, 2020 ONCJ, OJ No 545

The Accused was intoxicated (marijuana or crack cocaine – unclear) and after getting frustrated by his video game, he killed his mother’s cat by squeezing the cat’s neck. The Accused confessed his actions to both his mother and law enforcement, but did not seem to believe his acts were criminal.

The Court reviewed relevant case law on sentencing for animal cruelty and ultimately sentenced the accused to a jail sentence of 9 months plus 2 years probation. The Court ordered a prohibition against owning, residing with, or having care or control of an animal for 15 years, as well as weapons prohibition. The dominant sentencing principles for the Court were denunciation and deterrence.

Aggravating factors for the Court:
– 6 years prior to this offence, the Accused killed another cat, Accused also hurt another cat after the incident
– Killing of a family pet is a breach of trust.
– The Accused experienced pleasure in controlling the cat.
– The Accused has a prior criminal record for violence and breach of court orders.
– Accused has a moderate to high risk of re-offending.

Mitigating factors for the Court:
– The Accused took responsibility for his actions (to a limited extent) and expressed remorse.
– The Accused has a history of being bullied.
– The Accused has addiction and mental health issues that he has demonstrated he is seeking treatment for.

R v Kennedy 2015 ONCJ; 2017 ONSC 817

The accused’s neighbours, including an eight year old girl, visited the accused to show him their new kitten. The accused was intoxicated and became angry at his pet rabbit and the neighbours. He threatened to throw his pet rabbit, who the little girl often played with, off his 10th floor balcony. After holding the rabbit aloft over the side of his balcony for a few seconds, the accused let go. The rabbit died upon impact and the accused disposed of its body in his garbage chute.

The Ontario Court of Justice (“ONCJ”) convicted the accused under s. 445.1(1)(a) of the Criminal Code on one count of causing unnecessary pain, suffering, or injury to an animal. The ONCJ judge weighed all aggravating factors and recognized the accused suffered from alcohol and substance abuse, but despite being presented with options to help these issues, the accused minimized the impact of his addictions and did not make use of the resources available to him. The judge considered the accused’s long criminal record, including serious crimes of violence, and that the accused showed no remorse for his behaviour.

The accused was sentenced to nine months imprisonment followed by two years of probation. The sentencing judge issued a restitution order of $610.20 to be paid to the Humane Society. A weapons prohibition order for ten years was also issued, as well as a prohibition order preventing the accused from owning, having the custody of, or control of, or residing in the same premises as an animal or bird for life.

On appeal, the accused argued his sentence was “harsh, excessive, and unwarranted.” The appellate judge ruled that the sentencing judge adequately weighed aggravating and mitigation factors in sentencing the accused, especially considering the maximum sentence the accused could have received was eighteen months. The appellate judge dismissed the accused’s appeal and upheld the original sentence.

R v Pye, 2005 BCPC 355

The accused was convicted of sexually assaulting a child contrary to s. 271 of the Criminal Code and while awaiting sentencing for that conviction, attempted to commit bestiality with a dog by anal intercourse three times contrary to s. 160(1) of the Criminal Code. The accused initially denied the offence, but later confessed to police and plead guilty to bestiality.

The Crown argued that the accused’s rehabilitation was best met by incarceration and cited the accused’s lack of empathy and victim-blaming regarding the sexual assault, that the accused committed bestiality in a public place, and that the accused had re-offended. The Defence argued that the accused would best serve his sentence in the community, but the judge was not satisfied that the safety of the community would not be endangered.

The accused was sentenced to eighteen months’ incarceration for the sexual assault since the Crown elected to proceed summarily. The accused was also sentenced to six months’ concurrent incarceration for the bestiality conviction. The sentence was concurrent because in January 2005, the Crown had represented to the court it would be seeking concurrent time.